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Bathing the Hound

Chapter Text

                                                             

Sansa had gifted the Hound a handmade batch of her favorite lemon soap as a means of thanking him. With Tyrion's permission, she had enlisted Podrick to build a soap mold for her while Shae brought her the goat's milk and lemons, as well as the wrapping. When the kitchen maids ate their lunch, Sansa cooked the mixture over the open fire, guarded as she nearly always was by Ser Boros.

It was the first time she had made it without the supervision of her mother, and she had prayed the entire time that she wouldn't ruin it. At the end, she carefully stirred dried lemon peel into the mixture, poured it into the mold and let it cure for a month in her closet. When it was finished, Sansa carefully wrapped each bar in yellow paper, tied them securely with black velvet ribbon, and arranged them in a black wicker basket. It looked so pretty that Sansa was quite proud of it.

But when Boros told Joffrey that she had made the Hound a gift, the king became enraged.

"You traitorous little bitch!" The king spat out furiously. "You thought you could steal my dog from me with some paltry gift? Is that what your tiny, unnatural Northern brain came up with as a plan?" Joffrey laughed at his own joke, and the court dutifully followed suit.

"Your Grace, forgive me. I only meant it as a kind gesture. The Hound has been so very good to me, saving me during the bread riots and loyally keeping me safe for you." She stammered out, hot tears blurring her vision. "You know I would never do treason. I promised you that I would not, and I meant it. I even vowed it to the gods."

That was a lie, but the untruth slipped off of Sansa's tongue with ease. Let's see how brave he is when my brother comes. When Robb came to rescue her, she would see his blond head-wormy lips and all-on a spike for all the indignities she suffered at the hands of his Kingsguard.

All of them had hurt her in one manner or another-all excepting the Hound. He never struck her, nor had he handled her roughly. The Hound hates knights, and I hate them too. He was no true knight, but he saved me just the same.

Her eyes instinctively wandered to the king's side where the Hound stood impassively. His steel grey eyes instantly flickered toward her, as though he physically felt her gaze fall upon him.

A dog can smell a lie, you know. Sansa swallowed hard, and wondered if he knew the true reason behind her gift.

Joffrey thinks me stupid. The Hound's words came back to her. Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants. Steeling herself, she theatrically dabbed her eyes and fell to her knees before the king.

"I beg pardons, your Grace, I am indeed a stupid girl. I only wanted to give a gift worthy of your sworn shield, one that would bring honor to you as well. I-I foolishly thought it would please you." Her eyes searched Joffrey's manic appearance.

She went on: "So…so I crafted a special Northern lemon and goat's milk soap recipe used exclusively by the highborn class. It is the very same that I have used from infancy."

The audience around her all began laughing heartily. Laugh, Joffrey, and be satisfied.

"Stupid, foolish girl." A man's voice rang out in the crowd.

"The traitor's daughter is no smarter than he was in life. She's like to end up just like him." She heard a woman condescendingly titter.

Dontos ambled over and began his fool's banter, his actions only intensifying the tension in the room.

Joffrey's frightening rage, for the moment, suddenly seemed to dissipate. She could tell he was thinking of something.

Be satisfied. Encouraged, Sansa bit the inside of her cheek to draw tears and dramatically wiped her eyes.

When the crowd quieted, she softly hiccupped out her next words: "It is so very good for the skin, you see, and the lemon is a purifying fruit that holds many benefits. The Hound is always wearing armor in service to you, and it is ever so hot here in the south, and so I thought he would appreciate a fine-"

"Enough!" Joffrey slammed his fist against the armrest of the Iron Throne and at once began bleeding profusely.

"Dog!" Joffrey smeared the blood on his sleeve. "Your handkerchief, now!"

Calmly the Hound handed it to him, the man seemingly unperturbed by the king. His mouth twisted slightly, and for a moment, it seemed to Sansa that he was trying to suppress a smile.

He is not tending the king's wound as he did mine, Sansa thought somewhat triumphantly, and then briefly wondered if Joffrey noticed that, too.

Seething, Joffrey leaned forward. "You are as stupid as Mother says!" His wormy lips curled into a smile, though his eyes glimmered with rage. "Since you meant to give Dog something to bathe with, I will give him you. How is that for a gift for my dog, my lady?"

He means to make me bathe the Hound? Surely not. He wouldn't dare. Yet even as the idea came to her, Sansa knew that Joffrey indeed, would do such a thing, and worse than that if she displeased him. Let him think me stupid and obedient and pray the gods will allow that to satisfy him.

"Beg pardons, my king, I do not understand-you wish me to do what, exactly?" She wrung her hands.

"You will give my dog a bath, using your special soap." Joffrey grinned a terrible smile. "How does that please you, my lady?"

"It pleases me to please you, my king." Sansa's voice trembled as she spoke.

Beside the king, the Hound glowered but remained stoic.

"Boros, Meryn, take her to the Hound's chambers." Joffrey turned to the Hound. "Dog, go and make yourself ready for your lady."

The Hound seemed torn between waiting for Joffrey's next words to her and obeying the king's orders.

Ignoring the Hound, the king's green, feline eyes fiendishly settled on her.

"Of course, you'll be ruined after this and not fit to be my queen."

Her nerves betrayed her, and Sansa began wringing her hands in earnest. "I beg pardon?" She heard her own voice ask weakly.

"Are you deaf as well as daft? I said that I think I will give you to the Hound." He rubbed his chin as he paced in front of the throne. "Yes, I will wed you to him." Joffrey cackled as Sansa shrunk back with a gasp. "Then you will be his to do with as he likes. What say you, Dog?"

"I serve at your pleasure, your Grace," the Hound's harsh voice deliberately ground out each word with barely suppressed fury.

The entire court erupted with laughter.

Sansa's eyes darted between the king and his ferocious sworn shield, the young woman desperately trying to discern if Joffrey meant his words.

"Let it be done. Make a record of this decree." Joffrey waved his hand toward the maester as he grinned malevolently at her.

Holding her head erect, Sansa set her chin as the knights led her from the throne room. Once she entered the hall, her tears came of their own accord.


Boros dragged her from the throne room, opened the door to her chambers and gave her a shove.

"Change your clothes and be quick about it."

Shae spat out a litany of Lorathi curses at the man.

When the knight made it clear he wasn't going to leave, Sansa said: "If you want me to be quick, then please leave so my maid can help me. Besides, the Hound won't be pleased to be kept waiting."

After considering her words, he said: "That is your problem, girl, not mine."

"It will be your problem when I tell him that it was you who kept him waiting." Sansa answered calmly while searching through her closet.

Beside her, Shae snickered and haughtily tossed her head at the knight.

"Have it your way, wolf bitch." He spat out and slammed the door.

"What is happening?" Shae asked her, alarm blighting her pretty features.

After Sansa tearfully explained it all, Shae selected Sansa's lightest, sheerest gown made of sky blue silk.

"You will need this, then; it brings out your eyes and skin." When Sansa began trembling, her handmaiden held her hands and stared into her eyes. "The Hound cares for you, child. Can you not see it?"

"He does?" Sansa's eyes went wide. It was true that he never hurt her, he prevented her from shoving Joffrey off the parapet and he had come back for her during the bread riots. She supposed it might be possible he cared for her in his own, odd way.

Shae raised her brows at her. "Have you ever seen him treat anyone as well as he does you?"

Knitting her brows, Sansa shook her head. Shae spoke truly. Reluctantly she admitted to herself that if Joffrey was determined to force her to wed one of the Kingsguard, the Hound was not the worst one to be joined to in marriage.

"He will not hurt you. He is not that kind of man." Frowning, she loosened Sansa's hair from the fussy southern style she had arranged not two hours before. "Now smile pretty and choose." She pushed the perfume tray toward her.

"But I was not meant to wed a man so lowborn." Sansa petulantly muttered as she absently examined the decanters.

"That does not matter, silly girl," Shae pinched her chin. "He cares for you, and better to wed a low born man who has tender feelings for you than a highborn who hates you."

Her mind turned to Joffrey, causing the young woman to shiver. "How do you know so much about the Hound?" Sansa could not help but ask.

"Because I have spent my life learning men. I have gotten to where I am today because I am good at reading them." Shae pulled the brush through her hair in long, soothing strokes. "And the Hound will not force himself on you, you can put your mind at ease." Spitting, she gestured toward the door with the handle of the hairbrush. "But given the chance, that one will."

"But why?" Sansa persisted.

"Because in you, the Hound sees a chance to redeem himself." Shae explained. "He wants to be the knight you have dreamed about since you were a child, even if he mocks you for it. And he will never destroy his one opportunity for happiness, no matter how twisted it might be. Have you never noticed the way he looks at you, child?" She held Sansa by the chin, searching her face. The young woman did not answer.

"Now get dressed and smile pretty for him. No matter what happens, do not avert your eyes from him."

"Yes, Shae." Sansa whispered obediently as her maid then tied a matching linen pinafore over her gown.

Shae pressed a quick kiss to Sansa's hand and held it to her breast. "You will be fine. Now go. Don't keep him waiting."


Boros yanked open the entrance to the Hound's room and pushed her inside. Anxiety twisted Sansa's stomach in a knot as she looked around the room.

The Hound was nowhere to be seen. The room was sparse but clean. In the center of the solar stood a large oak barrel tub filled with steaming water. A flagon of wine, mineral salts, burlap rags, towels and a pitcher for rinsing had been placed on the table beside it. Her gift basket was sitting on his night stand, carefully placed on top of a fine handkerchief embroidered with his sigil. It looked as though it was the only item besides his sword that held a special place in the room.

Turning to the knight, Sansa tried to hide her delight in the discovery. "Where is he, ser?"

"Who the fuck cares where the ugly bastard is?"

Her face flushed hot with indignation. "He is to be my husband. You must not speak of him in such a way."

Boros' surprise mirrored her own. She had not expected to feel offended on behalf of the Hound. Still, if she was to be wed to him, then Sansa was duty bound to defend him, and she was nothing if not dutiful.

Infuriated, the knight snatched up the wash cloths with a sneering laugh.

"You won't be needing these. You can use your hands on your betrothed." He spat out the word like a curse.

Just as Sansa was about to protest, a rustling from the other room followed the Hound's heavy footfall, and suddenly he was there, the entire room seeming to shrink with his intimidating presence. Nervously she began fingering the little birds she had embroidered on her pinafore. Through squinting eyes, Sansa dared to glimpse the man and saw, much to her relief, that the Hound was wearing a black woolen robe. Surprisingly he seemed even bigger and more intimidating without his armor.

"Get the fuck out of here, Toad, unless you want a taste of my steel." The Hound snarled low, his fighting knife glinting in the firelight. He had pulled the weapon so quickly that Sansa had not even seen where he had it hidden.

"You think I didn't hear you? Bugger you. No man insults me and my woman and lives."

The sound of the Hound's insulting name for the knight, paired with hearing him calling her his woman, almost made Sansa giggle out loud in spite of her nerves. She didn't dare cast another look at either man, for if she did, Sansa knew she would lose her composure.

The Hound's heavy breathing was the only sound Sansa heard. Quietly she made her way to his nightstand and chose a bar of soap, turning her back to the men; she didn't want to see what would happen next.

"The next word out of your mouth better be an apology, if you know what's good for you." The Hound went on, his voice angrier still. "It makes me no matter but my future wife would undoubtedly prefer not to see your coward's blood staining my floor."

The knight muttered out a word that sounded like "sorry" and then immediately left the room. Sansa snuck a peek at the table. He took the cloths with him, Sansa's heart sank. The butterflies in her stomach once again set into a flurry as she realized what she would have to do.

After locking the latch, the Hound turned to Sansa and spoke in a somewhat softer tone: "Go on, girl. Get your things ready." His eyes roamed over her with both desire and sadness.

He most likely has never had a woman treat him kindly. Despite her precarious position, her heart was moved to empathy. Holding her breath, Sansa smoothed down her hair and skirts, slipped off her shoes, set her shoulders and silently padded over to the bathing bench.

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Sansa felt the weight of the Hound's steely gaze on her. Remembering Shae's words, Sansa peeked through lowered lashes to the sight of him untying his robe.

"Would you like me to step into the other room while you disrobe?" She squeaked out just as he was about to shrug out of the sleeves.

The Hound grinned wickedly and allowed his gaze to roam over her.

"No need. We're to be wed, my sweet little bird. What do you think of that?"

His bitter laughter drew a shiver up her spine. Oh gods, he's drunk. He always speaks so hatefully when he's drunk. Still, he isn't as mean as the others; the wine only sharpens his tongue. Another wave of nerves swept over her. Shae said he cares for me. Remember that. Speak plainly and look him in the face.

"I beg pardon; have you been in your cups, my lord?" Sansa asked quietly, her eyes searching his face.

The Hound's eyes darkened, but he laughed once more, sounding very much like the snarling dogs of his sigil.

"Mayhap a little. Not drunk, if that's what worries you. And I'm not a lord, girl. How many times do I have to tell you? Never bloody call me that again."

He held out his flask to her.

When Sansa refused, he frowned at her.

"I mean no offense, it's just that, well, this is all so sudden." Blushingly she forced herself to hold his gaze. "You know," Sansa gestured to the bath, "this intimacy, our betrothal…I didn't quite expect you to be so open with your body."

Her words died on her lips, hot tears flooding her eyes as she imagined all that being the Hound's wife would entail.

His expression softened then, though still the Hound scrutinized her face, looking for what Sansa did not know.

"Aye," he finally answered, his shoulders slumping. "You speak true. But there's only one way to get over it. Best let's do it and be done with it, girl. The guards are about in the hallway and will report to the king if they suspect you aren't receiving your punishment."

The Hound spat out the last word with distaste. Without hesitation, he then dropped his robe, defiantly staring her down as he did so.

A warmth rushed to Sansa's cheeks as she took in the virile specimen revealed to her. The Hound's physique was simply magnificent, like the Warrior himself, Sansa thrilled inwardly. And, he was bigger than any man had a right to be in all respects.

Captivation rendered Sansa unmovable, unwilling to turn away, unwilling to do what was modest. Though her conscience begged her to behave in the ladylike fashion that was expected of her, the young woman continued to stare openly at him.

"Little bird," she heard his voice faintly rasp in the background. "Come here, girl." He stepped forward.

Sansa's mind told her that she should turn away, that it was improper to continue to gape at her betrothed's nude body, but the young woman could not resist allowing her eyes to roam over him, her heart quickening as she did so. Tentatively she moved toward him, and then stopped just short of arm's length.

"Look at me," he almost pleaded.

"I am looking at you," Sansa answered breathlessly, "even though it is most improper. Forgive me."

The Hound laughed long and hard at her, but in his eyes Sansa saw vulnerability, a feeling that she shared. Casting her eyes downward, she willed herself to look upon him once more, to gratify him and do as he asked. She was certain she, too, would be gratified, but perhaps in a far different way.

Starting at the robe pooling around his exceptionally large feet, blushingly Sansa took in his defined yet supple calves and thick, heavily muscled thighs. Swallowing hard, she blinked several times and rested her hand on her stomach, feeling the rise and fall of her breathing grow shallow as she regarded him. Her heartbeat – and her core – quickened at the sight of his beautiful body. She longed to tell him that she found him most agreeable to look upon, but she could not find the words.

Shyly she raised her eyes to him and smiled. He swallowed hard as he stared in return, the mocking look replaced by a heated, lustful expression.

Drawing a deep breath to still her nerves, Sansa glimpsed over his manhood, her heart fluttering wildly as she did so. She dared not look too close, for even from where he stood she could see his arousal.

His body glistened with a fine sheen of sweat that highlighted the carved musculature of his broad chest and tapered waist and hips, dampening the fine black hair trailing down his abdomen. She had never seen another man like him, and, much to her surprise, she found herself longing to touch him, to feel him underneath her fingers.

Would his skin feel as soft as it looks? Would the hair on his body feel coarse or soft? She wondered, lost in her own thoughts. Unconsciously she licked her lips.

Laughing loudly, the Hound stepped closer still, the sudden movement interrupting her contemplation.

"Like something you see, girl?" He tipped her face up to him.

It was then that his smell reached her nose – warm, sensual, inviting, and so overtly masculine that Sansa could hardly bring herself to answer him. His grey eyes smoldered as he deliberately looked over her own body.

"You're flushed, little bird. Are you hot?" He chuckled.

"I-" Sansa stammered and bit her lower lip hard in concentration, which seemed to have a greater effect of drawing his attention to her lips rather than that of clearing her mind of the heady desire that overwhelmed her senses.

The Hound's gaze fixed on her mouth then, and he moaned softly, the indecent sound causing her to start. With a wicked grin, he held his arms out as though offering himself up to her.

Instinctively Sansa shrunk back, the young woman both scandalized and yet strangely intrigued by his invitation as well as his body.

"Look all you like, pretty bird," the Hound closed the distance between them. "I've no shame. And I never thought to have the pretty little bird staring at me and liking what she sees." His deep gray eyes glittered with amusement.

Desperately Sansa's mind struggled to form an explanation for her wanton behavior-an apology, or anything, really-that would serve to break the awkward silence of the room.

"Yes, yes, I do like your, I mean you-" her answer slipped out before she could stop herself. Horrified, her hands flew up to her mouth. "Forgive me! I mean, I should not have done so. It's not proper and, well -"

"What shouldn't you have done, little bird?" He roared out a laugh. "Gawk at me standing here, naked as my nameday? Or liked doing it? Or is it both?"

"I-I only meant-" Sansa blushed furiously and twisted her pinafore in her hands as she searched for the right thing to say.

"Go ahead, girl, tell me what you mean," he leered at her as he brushed a strand of hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

Glancing down, Sansa saw that his manhood stood proud and erect between them, curving from the nest of black curls that concealed the base of his groin clear up to his belly button. Was he aroused by her or was it just something that happened to men when they bathed? Not for the first time, Sansa regretted that her mother and septa never offered her more useful information on the male species.

This is totally inappropriate-we are not even wed yet! Her mind scolded her; nevertheless Sansa continued to stare at him. Her fingers inexplicably longed to stroke his manhood, even as the idea scandalized her sense of propriety.

Sansa squeezed her hand into a fist to resist reaching out to him. He's so very large; it is thick and long both. It looks so very soft and yet powerful. And when we are wedded, he will put it-"

The Hound laughed once more. Aghast at her behavior, Sansa gasped, abruptly dropped the soap she was holding and raised both her hands to her mouth.

"Ser," she straightened her back when his laughter subsided, "this is most improper….please, let us keep our decorum - for my sake."

"Your decorum? Is that what's in jeopardy, little bird?"

"This isn't proper," Sansa weakly whispered even as her eyes fell on him once more.

Grinning, he leaned in closer until his manhood lay flat against her belly, hot and hard and so very enticing to her.

"There's nothing proper about me, believe that."

"Yes…yes I can see that," Sansa stammered out, tightening her fist as she stepped away from him. "You are most impressive, even if you are not proper."

Laughing heartily, the Hound turned and stepped into the tub. "You needs keep that in mind if you're going to be my wife."

Through her embarrassment, Sansa was forced to swallow down what little was left of her pride and make herself to look at him. "What do you mean by 'if'? And please, I must insist that you answer without calling me stupid." Her lower lip quivered, drawing his eye to her mouth once more.

"Trying to regain your dignity by scolding me, is that the way of it, now?" He shook his head, the anger returning to his eyes. "I wasn't going to call you names, girl." The Hound then dunked his head below the water, shutting out the sound of her next words.

Sansa waited until he resurfaced and then repeated herself. "Forgive me, but it's just that…that you have called me that before and I'm not afraid to tell you that I don't like it one wit. I may be young and inexperienced, but I am not stupid. If we are to be wed, I insist you address me with respect."

Pleased with herself, she rested her hands on her hips and met his curious eyes.

The habitual fury in the Hound's intense gaze mellowed into a softer, warmer expression as he regarded her.

"Pretty little bird," he muttered, "and even prettier when her feathers are ruffled. So, there is a wolf in you after all. I wondered." The Hound sniffed.

"Wondered what?" She wetted her hands and added the salts.

"Still repeating what you hear, too," the Hound chuckled without mirth. "After Robert killed your little pet, I wondered if the wolf in you had died as well."

His words struck her heart like a sharp blow.

Sniffling, Sansa swallowed hard and then whispered, "I wondered that too. Truthfully I thought she died the day Lady was killed." Shrugging, she busied herself with the bath. "But it seems the wolf within me, well, she was merely sleeping."

"So she was." He eyed her sharply. "Girl, I won't use that word referring to you. I was drunk and stupid myself when I called you that name." Clearly chastened, he played with the water as he spoke, averting his eyes from her. "I don't think you stupid; never have, and especially not after today."

So he did notice her maneuvering of Joffrey. Sansa felt somewhat victorious that she had managed to back down the menacing, naked man before her.

"Thank you," she softly answered, "I know you hate being called lord or ser, so please, tell me how to respectfully address you."

Sansa eased the soap over her hands and began rolling it over her palms vigorously as she spoke, the movement transforming the Hound's expression into one that was most lustful. His response should have shamed her, but instead, Sansa found it excited her in a way she had never before experienced.

"My given name is Sandor." He finally replied, then cursed and dunked his head under the water once more. When he resurfaced, he brushed his long wet hair away from his face and gestured to the water.

"Best get on with it, girl. Start by scrubbing my back."

"I believe you meant to say: 'please wash my back, my lady'," she corrected.

"Bugger that nonsense. Sass me again, woman, and I'll have to find another, more pleasurable way to put that pretty rosebud mouth of yours to good use."

The Hound laughed loud at her indignation, the sound only increasing Sansa's wrath.

"Now get down to your work."

Fretfully Sansa glanced around her. "I-I do not have a rag with which to wash you. Ser Boros…he took it as a means of humiliating me further. Forgive me but I-I will have to use my hands to bathe you." She smoothed down her skirts, her cheeks flushing hotly. "It is most improper, I know."

Lasciviously Sandor raised his eyebrows up and down at her, his smile pulling the scarring on his face in a most alarming manner. "Might be better this way."

Despite his amusement at her expense, his eyes held Sansa's gaze. They were a beautiful, unique slate color, and quite different from the Stark gray of her father and sister's eyes.

His hair would need to be tied back if she was to lather him up. Gently she reached out toward him, and Sandor flinched and jerked away.

"Please, allow me to tie your hair in a knot so I may reach your skin." Sansa almost whispered as she knelt before him.

His look turned serious in an instant. "Go on, little bird, do what you must."

Carefully she gathered his long hair into a bun at the nape of his neck and gently tied it, then began her preparations.

After pouring the rest of the mineral salts in the furthest end of the tub across from Sandor, Sansa lightly ran her fingers over the surface of the bath while studiously trying to ignore that his manhood was standing taut and hard out from between his legs, the tip jutting out of the surface of the warm water.

"When are we to wed?" Sansa asked distractedly as she rested a towel on the side of the tub.

"On the morrow." Sandor leaned forward. "I don't have a choice. But you do. I've not forgotten."

"What do you mean?" Sansa asked as she began running her hands over his heavily muscled back. His skin felt like velvet, yet the muscle beneath was as hard as stone. Slowly she built a rich lather over his skin.

Hissing out a moan, Sandor clicked his teeth and leaned back, bringing his manhood further out of the water.

Briefly Sansa wondered if it felt the same as his skin; the way things were going, it seemed she would find out soon enough. Shaking her head to dispel her improper thoughts, she focused once more on the smooth, heavily muscled expanse before her.

"Sandor," her voice faltered, "should I gently use my nails on you?" Sansa traced one of the newer scars with the pad of her index finger. "I do not wish to cause you pain."

Sandor shivered beneath her and sighed contentedly.

"Oh! Forgive me, did I hurt you?" Sansa instinctively began rubbing his shoulders soothingly, and then abruptly halted with a gasp when she realized what she was doing to him. He must think me a wanton woman.

"No, girl." He chuckled low and drew a deep breath. "Aye, use your little claws on me. That will feel good, I suppose." Sansa knew he tried to sound nonchalant, but he began trembling in earnest beneath her hands. It was then that she realized it was most likely because no one had touched him with kindness in a long time.

Once again, Sansa's heart swelled with affection for the sad, broken, beautifully built man in front of her. Gently she smoothed her palm over his shoulders and down to his chest once and a second time, causing him to inhale sharply at her touch.

"You must get used to this, for I will bathe you every night after we are wed. It is a wife's duty to care for her lord husband thus."

Grunting, he shrugged.

"Has no one bathed you before?" Sansa spoke closely to his ear, and instantly observed that her breath against his ear elicited goose pimples on his skin. Gently she began lightly running her nails over his broad back, making wide circles from the center up to his shoulders, then down over his sides and to his waist. "There, is that gentle enough?"

He remained silent. His body felt so good that Sansa ended up stroking him far longer than was necessary to clean him.

Closing his eyes and rolling his head back, Sandor draw in a long contented breath.

"You have had no women do such for you before today?" Sansa shyly persisted, feeling somewhat anxious and jealous as she waited for his answer.

"Not since my mother." Sandor gruffly replied, clearly surprised by her curiosity on the matter, though his apparent amusement did not reach his eyes.

"You have not paid for the service?" Innocently she batted her eyes at him.

"Whores don't bathe with you, and besides, I never wanted them to do such. Gods only knows where they have been."

"Forgive me, but I suppose they have been wherever you have been," Sansa mused aloud as she poured a pitcher of water over him. "And after your visit, you have been wherever they have been. Is it not so?" Sharply he turned to her, but Sansa easily met his gaze, wide eyed and waiting.

Jerking around to face her, Sandor suddenly raised his hand to her.

Sansa flinched, expecting him to strike her for the insolence her jealousy had provoked. Wincing, she closed her eyes and waited for the blow. But the Hound did not strike her. To Sansa's great surprise, he tenderly took her face in his hands and smoothed his thumbs over her cheeks. His gentleness brought tears to Sansa's eyes, which she hastily blinked away.

"No one has ever done such for me, girl, least of all one as pretty as you."

"I understand. No one has touched me with affection in a very long time," Sansa softly sobbed. "It is something one doesn't realize they have missed until it happens again."

For a moment Sansa thought he was going to kiss her. She watched as Sandor gritted his jaw, holding back his words.

"You needs not flinch. Didn't I tell you that no one would hurt you again or I'd kill them?" His voice was a deep rasp, the sound resonating throughout her body.

Her breathing rapidly increased and Sansa felt impelled to open her eyes. His face reflected a vulnerability Sansa did not know he possessed.

Sadly Sandor pursed his mouth as he watched her.

"Yes," Sansa finally replied, the young woman comprehending that he was waiting for an answer. "Yes, I remember. You are the only one, that is, the only one who has never hurt me. I am pleased that Joffrey chose you to be my lord husband. I could not bear any of the others." And in that moment, Sansa realized Shae had been right; it would be far better to be joined to a man - even the second son of a minor house - who cared for her rather than a knight who would hurt her. And Sandor certainly cared for her, she could see it in his eyes.

The man did not answer her; instead he intensely he stared into Sansa’s face, seemingly transfixed by her skin and hair. Reverently Sandor stroked his long fingers over her face and neck and then moved to cup her jaw, his exceedingly large hands completely enveloping her entire head.

"Such a pretty thing," he murmurred. "I'll not strike you, lass, not now or ever; you needs never fear that from me. And especially not for speaking your mind. I'm not like those other bastards." Applying a gentle firmness, Sandor menacingly added: "And if any one of them so much as makes a lewd remark to you, I'll gut them and bring you their head."

Sansa let out a nervous sigh at his terrible promise. He would keep her safe, Sansa knew, and she would have nothing to fear from any of the other knights once she became his lady wife.Tentatively she cupped and a caressed his face in return and nodded softly to let him know she believed and appreciated his words.

The steamy bath had left a light layer of sweat above his lip that drew her attention and so she focused on that rather than the look of desire in his heated eyes. Inexplicably the desire to kiss and nibble away the small beads of moisture clinging to his skin rushed upon her, making Sansa very aware of the growing dampness in her smallclothes.

"No, you most certainly are not," she whispered, leaning into him as she spoke. "You-you don't mind me speaking frankly?" Sansa stammered out hopefully.

"No," Sandor moved closer still. If he had not been in the bath, she was certain that he would have pulled her into his lap, and suddenly Sansa wished there was no barrier between them. She would have let him hold her thus; it was not improper, to hold one's betrothed in such a manner.

The heat reflecting in his eyes produced on a corresponding throbbing sensation between her thighs. Nervously Sansa darted her tongue across her lower lip. Sandor's eyes fell her to mouth, and he caressed her cheek with the back of his wet hand while settling his thumb on her lips.

"I prefer it to your usual chirping." He sighed, settling back into the water.

Sansa could not repress a giggle; the sound brought a smile to Sandor's mouth that reached his eyes.

She drew up her courage and asked: "Sandor, please, tell me what you meant by 'if you go through with it' and that 'you remember'."

His face twisted into an ugly frown, transforming his formerly pleasant expression into one of annoyance.

"Of course, you know that I will go through with the marriage," Sansa went on, her fear diminished by the dejected look on his scarred face.

He isn't that bad, not really; it is only the scars that make him fearsome. His body is quite beautiful. I think I should very much like to take him into my marital bed. Shaking her head, Sansa struggled to focus on his words and not on his magnificent build on display.

When he still did not reply, she added: "I don't have a choice."

He glared at her.

Awkwardly Sansa began pouring water over of his back, the sight of the bubbles clinging to his skin momentarily distracting her from the palpable tension in the room. Recalling that Sandor appreciated open speech, Sansa quickly went on: "Neither do you. But we will do what we must. We will do our duties."

"I will do my duty, as you call it, but you-you have a choice, one I've seen you try twice before." He spat out, his voice reflecting a mixture of anger and fear.

"Whatever do you mean?" Puzzled, Sansa leaned back on her heels and waited.

"You could throw yourself down the serpentine, like you almost did both of us that night, or leap from the parapet, rather than join yourself to Joff's dog." Sandor ground out harshly.

He believes I would rather commit suicide than marry him. That what he has seen from me in the past is an indication of my intention now. The realization stung her with a pain that took her breath away.

"I told you that I wasn't trying to harm myself that night," Sansa answered softly. Hesitantly she approached him and rested her hands on his shoulders. "You startled me, nothing more. And with the king on the parapet, well, I was desperate and grief stricken and hopelessly alone. You saved me from making a horrible decision."

Silently Sandor searched her face, the man refusing to turn away until finally, seemingly satisfied, he began scrubbing his arms absently.

Gently Sansa took the bar of soap from his hands, startling the man. "Come, no more such talk, and no more doing my job for me," she forced herself to smile, "we should speak of pleasant things now so you will relax. Let's add the rest of the salts to the bath before the water gets cold."

Glaring at her, the Hound barked out a harsh laugh. "Always chirping. You sing a sweet song, girl, I'll give you that much." Sandor edged closer to the tub and raised up onto his kneels with a wicked smile. "For this next part, you'll be better off joining me in the water, that is, if you want to do your job thoroughly."

"Well maybe I will," Sansa tossed her hair, waiting for him to back down. But he didn't back down; instead, he lifted her by the waist and set her on the lip of the tub. "Never thought I'd share my bath with a little bird." Grinning down at her, his eyes challenged her resolve but behind the desire and mirth, she also saw fear of rejection in the man.

Biting her lip, Sansa felt her face flush hotly down to her chest, her visible embarrassment further amusing the Hound. Determined to turn the tables on him as well as gratify them both, a wild idea took hold in her mind.

"If it pleases you, I will join you, Sandor." Sansa's voice quivered even as she reveled in the triumph of wiping the smirk off his face. It will not matter, we are to be wed in a matter of hours anyway, she told herself as she jutted her chin at him. This may be unladylike but it is something I know we both want desperately.

Shocked into speechlessness, the Hound gaped at Sansa, licking his lips hungrily as she unlaced her gown.

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Look at me, he had practically begged after he disrobed. Holding Sandor's gaze, Sansa gave him what he asked as she removed her pinafore and then loosened her gown, her fingers trembling under his ravenous gaze. Her skin prickled as it was revealed, the cool air bringing a shiver to her overheated flesh. It was both unexpectedly empowering and arousing to reveal herself to him in such a way, especially after the fearsome man unceremoniously displayed his own naked body not a quarter hour past.

Sansa had made up her mind that this was one area of her life – the intimate part – which she refused to allow Joffrey control. She would deny him the ability to say when or to whom she would lose her maidenhead, to dictate when and where she did so. He will not treat my body as chattel to be sold or given away at his whim. I will give myself to whomever I wish, whenever I wish. And I want Sandor, she repeated, the words emboldening her as Sansa fumbled with the ties. That is, until she looked up at the muscular, powerful and very naked warrior ogling her with his mouth open, his hands moving fast under the water of the tub.

How chivalrous! He means to spare me, his lady, the indignity of washing his most intimate parts. Sandor may hate knights but he certainly acts the hero from the stories from time to time. A delighted giggle escaped Sansa's lips but her hands no longer faltered as she hurried to remove the last of her lacings.

"You don't have to do this, little bird," Sandor rasped quietly as she let the gown fall to the floor, his words belying the predatory gleam his gaze. "Bloody hells, I only teased you. I don't truly expect you to just let me-gods-"

Further emboldened by his contrition, Sansa held his gaze and calmly continued undressing, pushing down the straps of her shift until her smallclothes and camisole remained. After calmly draping the garments over a chair, she then slowly unrolled her stockings. Briefly she caught a glance at herself in the mirror. Sansa was pleased to see a wash of red sunset alighted her skin and hair, though the light also rendered translucent the gossamer silk of her remaining garments.

I hope I am to his liking, Sansa thrilled inwardly. Her mother and septa never told her that husbands could enjoy something as simple as watching a woman undress. Theon, however, had often extrapolated on the variety as well as desirability of ladies' breasts, bottoms and thighs at the dinner table after her parents retired to their solar. Though scandalized, Sansa and Arya both had longed to ask him more, but their brothers had always soundly thrashed him for his impertinence long before either girl had the chance to do so.

To her surprise, Sandor seemed as entranced by her legs as he was the rest of her. With concentrated effort, Sandor panted and moaned aloud as he vigorously cleaned himself in what Sansa found to be a most distracting manner. Slowly she smoothed her now bare legs with her hands, trying to warm her skin, while Sandor's eyes grew huge, his mouth pressed in a tight line as he hungrily watched her hands ease up to her stomach.

A rush of wetness soaked her woman's place, and Sansa felt the heat flush from her stomach to her breasts and up to her cheeks. Reaching up to the tops of her breasts, Sansa self-consciously smoothed her hands over them, then moved to her shoulders and chest, down over the dip in her waist until finally resting on the flare of her hips as she waited.

"Don't tease me, woman-" he rasped low, his eyes following the path of her hands while his hands moved faster beneath the water. His voice sounded strained, as though he were speaking while working.

"I do not wish to tease you. I want to be intimate with you, Sandor," she shyly whispered her reassurance. Anxiously she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, causing her future husband's gaze to settle between her thighs. Sansa squeezed her legs together and wondered if he could see the gathering wetness there. Surely it is visible in this light. Glancing downward, she saw that the dampened hair indeed was clearly noticeable, and that a small bit of her arousal fluid was now inching down her thighs. Mortified, Sansa squeezed them together once more.

It made no matter, though, for Sandor's lustful gaze was fixated on her woman's place. He groaned and gripped the side of the tub with his free hand while the one beneath moved faster still, splashing the water all over the wooden floor.

Flustered, Sansa remained silent, mesmerized by the sight of the tanned skin of his face, neck and chest flush a deep red color with the fluid movement of the muscles beneath his taut skin. Groaning loudly, Sandor then sighed out a slur of curse words and slumped against the side of the tub, panting as he did so.

Curiously Sansa stepped forward and gently raised her hand to his shoulder, causing the man to jump. "Have you finished?"

Roaring out a laugh, Sandor startled Sansa so that she reeled backward. Strong hands suddenly gripped her tightly around the waist, steading her. "Aye that I did. Nearly blacked out, too."

Confused, she said, "You nearly blacked out from your bathing? That does not seem normal. Perhaps I should call the maester-"

"No-" Sandor laughed in earnest, holding up his hand and shaking his head at her. "I don't need that rickety old man."

Laughing at his joke, Sansa finally found her voice: "Forgive me, I didn't mean to jump. You surprised me. Are you feeling quite well?"

Leaning forward, Sandor seemed to struggle to keep a straight face for he rubbed his hand over it and then squeezed the bridge of his hooked nose.

"Aye little bird, I feel very well." Sandor smirked to himself. "Too good, might be."

She did not understand his words. Confused and embarrassed, Sansa winced, waiting for him to scold her for her ignorance.

"Pretty little bird," the fierce man tempered his tone, "don't fret, now. You did nothing wrong. Damn me to the Seven hells, girl, but you heat my blood." His eyes softened at her obvious apprehension. "I ought not to have done that in front of you but it's been so long that I lost my head. Seeing your sweet teats, so round and soft looking in the light, was too much. And the sight of you all wet and ready for me was enough to make me spill my seed like a greenboy having his first fuck."

Blushing, Sansa struggled to find an appropriate response.

Sandor went on somewhat contritely, "Don't fret now, you've nothing to fear. I would never force myself on you. And I won't have you at all unless you wish it, even when we are wed."

Finally comprehension doused Sansa's confusion, replacing it with the deepest embarrassment of her young life. Oddly, it also brought on a corresponding wave of heat to her woman's place as she recalled the fluid motion of Sandor's hand under the water, the surprised pleasure that bloomed on his scarred face, the flushing of his chest, the deep, resonating moans emanating from his throat.

Not knowing what to do with that information, Sansa glanced around the room desperately, the young woman wanting nothing more than to flee the room. Sandor would not stop her, of that she was certain, for Shae had been right about him; the man already had more than enough opportunity to ravage her as Joffrey expected. But Sandor had not so much as touched her in an inappropriate fashion.

On the contrary, his caresses had been innocent, tender, almost reverent – at least until he rested his manhood against her belly. And what followed, well, she had no point of reference with which to process that, so Sansa decided she would ignore it – for now.

Her greatest surprise lay in the discovery that his actions, both innocent and lewd, had the power to ignite a desperate ache within her, one that Sansa knew only he could satisfy.

Gingerly she drew closer to the tub, her legs shaking with each step.

"I do want to, Sandor," she spoke with her eyes downcast. "I-I don't want our first intimate experience to be dictated by the septon or at the king's behest. It is for us and us alone – that is the way the gods intended." Sansa then raised her eyes to his, half expecting him to mock her. "In truth, my heart just cannot abide anyone exerting control over this very personal part of our interactions but us. Can you understand that?" Anxiously she searched his face and then lowered her eyes.

"I do, little bird."

She heard him tap his fingers on the edge of the tub. No waiting for her to join him of her own accord, Sandor unceremoniously lifted her into his arms and settled her into the water.

"I like the way you blush." He bent and nibbled at her shoulder. The feel of his mouth on her skin caused her to begin trembling.

Distractedly Sansa watched as the suds slipped down his carved chest and chiseled abs until finally gathering in the thick thatch of curls nesting his now flaccid manhood. He was magnificent in every way, and not for the first time, Sansa wished she wasn't so fair that every hint of discomfiture announced itself on her complexion.

Laughing low, Sandor's large hand brushed her cheek with the same tenderness he displayed earlier.

I should have known better; there is nothing chivalrous about this man, Sansa could not help but giggle, so pleased she was at the discovery. His coarseness both in speech and actions unexpectedly endeared Sandor to her all the more. Reaching up, she covered his hand with her own. The pleasant scratch of his beard against her fingers made her long to nibble on him in return.

Grunting long and low, Sandor carefully settled her beside him and sat down.

It startled her, the sudden change of her tastes in men, and the young woman's mind worked to account for it as she rinsed off in the water. Though she never let it show, many times Sansa wished she could balk against the confines of propriety forced upon her; Sandor, however, was a man completely free of such mores, and it thrilled that rebellious place within her.

"I'll not take you tonight, so calm yourself, lass," he reached out to her, running his hands through her hair and then tying its length in the same manner she had done to him. "Even though you'd never know it from my vulgar behavior today, I am capable of controlling myself with you. You just finish what the king ordered, and then we will go from there. Start fresh and from then on, what we do – or refrain from doing - with be for us alone. What say you?"

"That pleases me greatly, Sandor," Sansa smiled brightly and shyly offered: "I-I can wash your hair next, if you like."

"Many thanks, lass, but you've done enough already that I have liked immensely," Sandor chuckled out and Sansa smiled with him.

"I think I've spoilt a fair amount of your innocence. You got far more than you bargained for today, aye." His eyes clouded over with what Sansa read as shame. "There's more than one reason I'm called "dog", believe that."

A heady blend of desire, uneasiness and awkwardness weighed heavily between them.

"Never mind that," she finally tisked at him. "Here, bend down so I can lather your hair."

After loosening his bun, Sansa primly began soaping her hands while steadfastly avoiding the sight of his manhood bobbing about in the water.

After staring at her a while, Sandor finally dipped his head so she could reach him. "Go on, then."

The scent of his clean skin and the lemon soap was so enticing, so masculine that Sansa breathed him in deeply, relishing his scent, relishing him. Sansa massaged his scalp with the pads of her fingers and then gently drew her nails over him.

Sighing, Sandor rested heavily on the edge of the tub; there was a quiet, contented quality to the sound of his breath, one that gratified Sansa immensely. Pleased, she picked up the pitcher and carefully rinsed his hair. Rather than jerking away and dunking his head under the water as she expected, Sandor passively allowed it, the man even turning his head to allow her greater access.

When finished, Sansa poured a small amount of her favorite lemon scented oil into her hands and then tenderly drew her fingers through the strands until she freed his hair of all tangles.

"It will make your hair soft and smell so very good," she explained as he glared at her with a quirked brow.

"Grooming me like a girl, now, are you?"

"I will have nothing but the best for my lord husband." She then draped the towel over his head and blotted the water from his hair, thus silencing any comment he might have made.

Mollified, Sandor took over then, snatching the towel from her and then rubbing his hair vigorously.

Drawing a deep breath, Sansa's eyes followed the droplets of water making wet trails over his naked shoulders and chest. Beneath them, her eyes fell on his manhood, which began to thicken once more.

"I-I didn't finish with your…front side," Sansa blushed deeply and bit her lip.

Smirking, Sandor handed her the soap. "Do what you like, little bird." He floated on his back with a wicked grin. "I'm yours."

"Yes, yes you are," Sansa breathed out, "and I am yours, from this day until the end of my days."

His gaze transformed into one of equal parts disbelieve, hope, and desperate hunger.

"Do you mean that, little bird?" Sandor rasped low. "You aren't just saying such because you have no other choice?"

"No," Sansa shook her head decidedly, "You have given me the choice, and I choose you in return." Timidly she closed her eyes and leaned into him.

His mouth fell on hers hungrily, their first kiss graceless, passionate, and utterly delightful to the young woman. Sandor's mouth was smooth, inviting, and he tasted as good as he looked. Kissing him was a far different experience than the wet, sloppy, wormy attentions of her former fiancé.

Eagerly Sansa tried to match his movements and returned his kisses with the same intense passion which he bestowed on her. When they finally broke apart, gasping, Sansa giggled out loud and she smiled up at him, then blushed as she felt the long, thick expanse of his manhood pressing into her thigh.

Stroking his thumb over her swollen lips, Sandor smiled in return, the motion twisting his mouth into a frightening grin, but Sansa only saw the joy in the man. Coyly she put a little distance between them and Sandor respectfully complied.

With her left hand, she began running the soap bar over his body, smoothing the lather through the hair covering his heavily muscled his chest and stomach. When she finished, Sansa next slowly poured clean water over his body, relishing the sight of the suds caressing their way over his chest and stomach and settling into the thick hair of his groin. His manhood throbbed as she carefully brushed the soap away from him, and Sansa dared not raise her eyes to Sandor's face as she allowed her fingers to brush against his hardened member.

The weight of his gaze felt like a physical caress; it coaxed a deep, throbbing ache in Sansa's core, as did the feel of his body under her hands. Her nipples stiffened and the desire to stroke them became nearly unbearable. Biting her lip, she squeezed her legs together to ease her want, the movement drawing Sandor's attention at once.

"Do you ache, little bird?" He took the soap from her and set it on the side of the tub, then tugged her close to him. "Hmm, I think you do."

Even through the fine silk of her camisole, the feel of his hot, powerful chest pressed against her sensitized breasts drew a small cry of pleasure from Sansa's lips. Gently he rubbed his hand over her back and then up to her breast, gently cupping both of them through her camisole.

"Yes, so very much," she half whispered, half moaned. "I ache, Sandor, I need…" Truthfully Sansa didn't know how to express what she needed, so she buried her face in his chest.

"I know what you need, little bird," Sandor rubbed his hand over her belly before reaching beneath the water. "And I can give it to you, if you like," he grinned wickedly as he lifted her out of the water. He cupped her mound and stroked his middle finger over the seam of her woman's place through her wet smallclothes, causing her to cry out and arch into his hand.

"Yes, Sandor," she whispered shakily when she regained her breath. Her entire body trembled with want, and with great effort Sansa whispered into his ear. "Take me into your bed."

Chapter Text

                                                         

With a tenderness that surprised her, Sandor secured a towel around his waist, knelt and settled Sansa onto his bed with shaking hands. Confused as to what he expected of her, Sansa started to scoot back toward his pillows, but Sandor stilled her movements and then sat beside her on the edge of his bunk.

"No lass," Sandor shook his head, the man seemingly angry with himself, "Don't do that. I'll not take you in this soldier's cell. Look around you," he gestured irritably at the sparsely decorated space. "It is dirty and cramped and sultry."

The obviousness of his statement puzzled her. A hot ocean breeze rose from the Blackwater Rush battered the Red Keep nearly every afternoon; and they had a hot bath drawn besides, so naturally it was sultry in his quarters. It was true that the room was much smaller than her own, lacking similar well-appointed decorations, but such was not fitting for a man of his station. As for the space surrounding them, she did not find it dirty or cramped at all; it was neat and clean, with his weapons, clothing and other assorted belongs carefully organized and maintained.

Confused, Sansa's eyes followed him, wondering at his words. Shame filled the fierce man's face as he watched her, and it was then Sansa discerned that Sandor was speaking of a different sort of uncleanness.

"You've no idea the depravity I'm capable of, lass," he angrily kicked a nearby table, startling her. "I've fucked whores here. Drunk myself into a stupor here more times than I can count. Slept in my own filth. Thought of my brother, too, and all I'd like to do to him."

"Depravity? You speak to me of my lack of understanding of that when I have been kept at court for twelves turns of the moon?" Sansa sadly answered with a shake of the head. "Compared to what I have observed from most of the Lannister and Baratheon host, your definition of depravity is positively tame."

His eyes flickered up to hers, his mouth curling in momentary amusement.

"You have suffered and tried to erase your pain here, nothing more." Sansa raised up onto her knees and reached for him. "Come to me. Let us replace those memories together with much better ones."

"You sing a sweet song, little bird, one that is very tempting to a dog like me." Sandor patted her bare thighs, his eyes gleaming. The ardent manner with which his gaze lingered on the wet garments clinging to her body convinced Sansa that he would soon change his mind.

Cursing, Sandor agitatedly smoothed his hands through his hair away from his face. "You deserve more than that, lass, much more."

After a moment, Sansa whispered, "So do you, but here we are."

A rough chuckle left his throat. "Aye here we are." Sandor's eyes traveled over her once more. "And you're soaked through."

Nervously she giggled and cast her eyes down. "I am."

Tentatively Sandor reached for her stomach and rested his palm there while he stared at her most intimate place.

"Is all this for me?" He grinned and touched the pad of his finger to the inner seam of her smallclothes.

"Yes," Sansa breathed out, "Forgive me, but I am most aroused by you." Reddening, she averted her eyes.

"Hmm, so sweet and pink, and so ready for me," Sandor licked his lips. "You get out of those wet clothes."

Her mind and heart raced. Sansa felt her lips pull into a mischievous smile as she imagined his shocked expression. It was not proper, certainly, for her to just take off her clothes in front of him, but then nothing about their situation had been proper that day.

Casting her inhibitions aside, Sansa drew a deep breath, lifted the camisole over her head and then tugged at the ribbons of her smallclothes.

"Allow me," he took a towel and began lightly blotting Sansa's skin. His touch was fast becoming exquisite torture for her and Sansa could not help wriggling impatiently.

Sandor fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his scarred cheek to her abdomen. "So sweet." His hot breath whispered against her skin. His worshipful manner embarrassed her. Just as Sansa was about to tell him to rise, she noticed Sandor's eyes took on an almost reverent, incredulous expression as they roamed over her body.

"Gods above, you are the Maiden made flesh, lass." Sandor choked out as he looked up at her.

"You mustn't say such things," Sansa chided him gently. "It is sacrilegious."

"I bloody don't well care," Sandor lovingly pressed his mouth against her stomach, placing small kisses there. "Worshiping your body is as close to holy as I'll ever come, lass, believe that."

His tender admission nearly drove the air from Sansa's lungs. Gently she disentangled herself from him and climbed back onto the bed and Sandor was suddenly beside her, taking her into his arms.

Softly Sansa began tracing circles over the supple skin of his neck while she stroked his face, exploring, learning her betrothed. No, my lover, her mind whispered. Heat poured through her body and ignited the sweet ache between her thighs into a desperate, raging hunger. This must be what he feels, Sansa thrilled, finally comprehending the maddening desire that drove them both to seek to ease their want. This is why he could not resist pleasuring himself.

Breathless, Sandor lifted her face up to his gaze. "I needs you, lass. Let me have you."

"Just kissing, nothing more until we are wed," Sansa could not resist teasing.

"Are you laughing at me?" He pulled away with a frown.

Taking his hands in her own, Sansa seriously answered, "I would never. I'm merely laughing because we are naked and in this intimate position, it seemed a fine joke to say we will only kiss when I so obviously want more with you."

Grinning, he shook his head and chuckled.

Smiling, Sansa rubbed her thumbs over his knuckles. "I'm happy for the first time since arriving in the Red Keep; I didn't mean to offend you."

Growling, Sandor answered by lifting her onto his lap and positioned her to straddle his thigh.

Gasping, Sansa whimpered out a weak protest. Without hesitation, Sandor once more swallowed down her apprehension by covering her mouth with his own. This feels so right, she mused happily as she eagerly returned his kisses. Not knowing how to ease the growing ache in her core, subconsciously Sansa began rotating her hips against him, the new movement ripping a low growl from Sandor's throat.

Awkwardly Sansa continued to experiment by massaging her woman's place against his body, using him for her own pleasure, and was rewarded with loud moans from Sandor. The feel of his hot, smooth skin and hard, heavily muscled leg between her thighs was irresistible. Sansa increased her rubbing as maddening want steadily climbed within her.

Panting, Sandor dipped his head and eagerly began tasting her breasts, the man veritably feasting on her soft flesh while large hands lightly danced over her bare skin, encouraging her movements.

"Little bird, gods, you're killing me," Sandor groaned through gritted teeth.

The husky rasp of his voice inflamed Sansa in a way she never knew possible. Sandor began flexing his thigh to match the cadence of her hips, and Sansa tipped her head back and moaned long and low. Her fleeting concern about behaving in an unseemly manner was promptly overridden by exquisite delight and fervently Sansa responded by moving even harder against him.

Cupping her bottom with both hands, Sandor began tracing his middle fingers along her seam and working his body with her own. Embarrassment warred with desire within Sansa, but it seemed that her hips moved of their own accord, undulating with each movement of his hand. Her breathing became shallow as Sandor steadied her mound with the palm of his hand, then traced a path upward through the center until she writhed anew. The feel of his hand stroking her filled her body with excitement and intimacy, and a longing she couldn't place for something she never knew she needed.

"What are you doing, you naughty little bird?" Sandor grasped her bottom. "Taking your pleasure on me, are you?"

"I-" she gasped out, mortification and desire warring within her, "Yes. I only know that I need you, Sandor, please."

Her voice came out an embarrassingly needy whine, but Sansa could not be made to care. He felt so good beneath her, and Sandor's beautiful, virile body promised even greater delights as she took in the sight of his thick, glistening shaft. She had been taught that a woman should fight the inclination to express arousal in the marriage bed but Sansa ignored it; she would reciprocate his lust enthusiastically, shamelessly.

Certainly the gods must have meant for women to enjoy marital intimacies as well as the man, and Sansa was convinced whoever came up with such teachings had never known a lover like Sandor. Everything about her betrothed felt so good, so right, that Sansa believed that the gods had made her body just for him – and that they had fashioned Sandor for her own as well.

"There's no shame in it," Sandor almost moaned into her ear. Warm lips then surrounded her nipple once more, the feel both shocking and gratifying to her while strong arms pressed her down further still. The slide against his hard, muscled thigh grew slick with her arousal but Sansa did not stop. Steadily she increased the speed of her movements, arching her back deeper into him and moaning loudly that Sansa no longer recognized the sound of her voice as her own.

"You need something harder to grind your pretty red mound against, don't you?" Sandor growled next to her breast, nipping her tender flesh, his lascivious suggestion driving her desire for him even higher. With one fluid motion, he lifted her to straddle him and then thrust the thick, long expanse of his manhood along her seam. The head pressed hard against the crown of nerves above her apex, drawing out a new, excruciatingly pleasing sensation to her core.

Sansa heard herself cry out as she locked her legs around his thighs and rested her ankles in the crease where his muscled thighs met his buttocks. She was rewarded with the caress of his powerful chest stroking her sensitized nipples. Moving over her, Sandor slid wetly over her length in a continuous motion until pleasure intensified, her entire focus solely centered on the delicious spot where they rubbed against each other. Sandor gripped her hips and guided her as he began rolling her down on his body.

"Let yourself go, Sansa," she heard Sandor whisper as if reading her thoughts. When his fingers stroked corresponding circles on her source of bliss, Sansa sobbed out in ecstasy. Sandor leaned over her and took her exposed nipple into his mouth and sucked it gently, steering her over an unseen edge. Her inner walls contracted sharply against his hand; then Sansa felt a new, full sensation, the young woman discerning two of his fingers were now buried within her, filling her.

"Oh the Seven save me, Sandor, that's so good," she whimpered, and Sandor gratified her by thrusting in and out of her while sucking on her breasts.

"That's it, give yourself to me," he rasped tightly into her ear and then bit down on the crook of her neck. Another orgasm suddenly wracked her body, sending a flush of warmth from her core to her chest. Sandor continued his motions until Sansa's hips stopped moving. Gasping, she tried to roll away on shaky hands Sandor scooped her up into his arms once more.

"You're mine now, lass," his eyes shone. "Pretty little bird, all flushed and wet for me."

"Sandor," Sansa kissed his waiting mouth hungrily. "I want all of you. Take me. Please, don't make me beg you." She peeked between them to see his member, still engorged and leaking a clear fluid, was pressed firmly against her lower stomach and mound. Tentatively Sansa reached between them and began stroking his shaft, pulling lightly and smoothing her thumb over the tip. His member was both hard and yet smooth, Sansa thought fleetingly through a haze of lust.

Keening, Sandor bowed into her grasp.

"No, little bird, no more," he gasped out, "I want to find my completion inside your sweet cunt."

The vulgarity of his words only spurred her on, and Sansa responded by moving her hand faster over him. She felt his hands brushing the sweat soaked strands of hair away from her face, soothing her, stilling her grip.

"I want that too." Sansa unblushingly admitted, the young woman suddenly made self-conscious by the raw animal passion in Sandor's gaze. Pressing his mouth to her ear, Sandor groaned as he rolled Sansa onto her back in one fluid motion. The next thing she felt was the wet head of his manhood stroking the length of her slit, and Sansa cried out at the intensity of it all.

"Gods, Sansa, you're so fucking wet for me," he panted against her neck.

Tossing her head from side to side, Sansa was at a loss as her body completely surrendered to her desire. She whimpered and sighed and rolled her hips up to meet him until Sandor thrust into her deeply. The pain that her lady mother and septa had warned her about did not come and Sansa lifted her hips off the bed to meet him. Straining with effort to still himself, Sandor eyed her closely.

Suddenly nervous, Sansa whispered her explanation, "Forgive me my maidenhead. I'm a maiden for true but I have ridden horseback my entire life." She didn't know of any other way to explain her lack of discomfort and inner barrier. Anxiously she searched his face for signs of displeasure but to her relief, Sandor merely grinned and shook his head.

"I never doubted you were, my sweet little bird," he gasped as he pulled out and then thrust inside her once more. "Only a fool would think otherwise, or even care." She arched into him as he spoke, and Sandor's face twisted in gratification as he ground out his words.

"Good?" He rasped tightly when she moaned long and low.

"Oh yes," Sansa shamelessly bucked her hips against him, urging him onward until his thrusts increased. Writhing, against Sandor's length, Sansa futilely chased the elusive but intense feeling he had brought her earlier as he rocked inside of her.

"I need more," she shamelessly gasped into the curtain of his hair falling around her. "Please-"

Gazing over his shoulders, Sansa saw that Sandor's back shimmered with a fine sheen of sweat, his muscles working and straining as the tempo of his hips quickened. Next Sandor reached between them and pressed his finger down on Sansa's new-found point of bliss until the thrill of it shook her. Something primitive was driving her, tightening every muscle of her body, searching, deepening, bringing her ever closer to a lustful finish previously unknown to the young maiden.

Desperately Sansa arched her back with him. Sandor groaned and bucked into her faster still, until her pleasure centered, peaked and then burst. Sansa threw her head back and thrust her hips forward a few more times to extend the marvelous feelings flowing through her, gripping his shoulders and drawing her nails over his back and giving herself over to her peak. Crying out, Sandor reached his own completion, the man panting hard as he slumped into her arms.

Once the desperate hunger of the moment waned, Sandor eased off of her and drew her into his embrace, the couple falling into a companionable silence. Sansa caressed his chest as their breathing slowed to a normal pace. She had never felt so languorous, so completely contented.

After a few moments, Sandor drew in a deep sigh. "There's something you ought to know, Sansa."

She turned to him with more than a little trepidation. "Yes?"

"Wedding you was my idea, not Joffrey's."

"What?" Sansa sat up.

"He wanted each member of the Kingsguard to outrage you so he didn't have to go through with the marriage. He meant to give you to them today, in fact. So I suggested you wed me instead, that I would teach you what dogs do to wolves." Sheepishly Sandor refused to meet her gaze. "The little shit imagined you would meet the same end as Gregor's wives, just as I knew he would, so he had gleefully agreed. Promised he would release me from the Kingsguard and that I could take you to Clegane Keep. The thing was already done before you even came into the throne room."

Stunned, Sansa struggled to find her voice. "Why would you risk so much for me?"

Sandor raised his eyes to her and took her face into his hands. "I was merely keeping my promise to let no harm come to you."

A storm of emotions enveloped Sansa, filling her heart with tenderness.

"No one has given me a gift since the day the man who made the toys for Gregor and I came to our keep." Sandor went on, "You must have known I would never let you come to harm for it, as I had."

Tears blurred her eyes. "You-you have done far more for me than any knight."

Shrugging, he rolled his eyes at her.

"You hate knights and so do I," Sansa pulled him closer to her. "Knights do what they have to out of some duty to an empty vow that they repeated by rote, while you, you act out of the goodness of your heart."

"Bugger that, little bird, there's no good in me." Sandor shook his head. "Still with the stories in your head."

Holding on to his face, Sansa whispered: "That is not true. I know better than anyone that you have buried the good within you and tried to choke it down to survive this place. But that hasn't kept you from revealing your true nature from time to time." Climbing onto his lap, Sansa began to cry in earnest as she embraced him.

Sandor did not speak and instead she felt him bury his face in her hair, heard as he made a choking sound before the wetness of his tears dampened her skin. When they finally pulled apart, his dark gaze narrowed, but before Sandor could go on, a loud banging on the door startled them both.

Wrapping the blanket around his waist, Sandor quietly set her on the edge of his bunk and then moved toward the door. Gripping the handle of his fighting knife, he waited until Sansa pulled on her gown before he jerked it open.

Boros Blount's beady eyes searched the room until they finally fell on Sansa. A knowing smirk showed blackened teeth as he grinned at her.

Shuddering, Sansa straightened her back and raised her head and then turned toward Sandor, whose eyes blazed with rage.

"What in bloody hells do you want, Toad?" He rasped low, and laid the flat edge of his knife against the knight's throat. "No further, or I'll slit your worthless neck."

Boros let out an exasperated huff.

Swallowing hard, Sansa glanced between them. Boros appeared not to recognize the danger, but she certainly did. Before her eyes, the man whose tenderness moments earlier brought tears to her eyes had receded and disappeared within the fearsome man until only the visage of the Hound remained.

She had seen him thus once before after he rescued her during the bread riots. After killing her attackers, Sandor had meticulously searched her for injury and in so doing, read the fear in her eyes. The Hound had turned away from her then, silently gathering himself; and when their eyes met again, he had allowed her to glimpse Sandor the man.

Briefly she wondered if such was necessary for men of war. No, Sansa realized, Sandor's skill is singular. He had to learn to do so after Gregor. Another sharp shiver rolled through her then, followed by more tears.

Her reaction caught Sandor's attention at once and his expression furrowed as he looked her over, the man mistaking fear as the source of her discomfort.

"The king wants a report on your treatment by Lady Stark." The knight stepping forward to test Sandor once more. "Has she been satisfactory?"

"Aye that she was." Sandor's voice had taken on a feral growling sound which set her teeth on edge.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Boros heft his weight in an attempt to muscle past him.

Sandor's blade bit into the jowls of the Toad, stopping his advance.

"Bloody hells, Clegane! I-"

"Don't you know better than to try to get between a dog and his treat?" Sandor laughed wickedly in the face of the startled knight. "You're lucky you still have a head."

"Clegane, the king commanded me-"

"What did he say?" Sandor hissed, his eyes gleaming dangerously. "Spit it out!"

"To take your betrothed back to her quarters where I am to guard her until the ceremony."

"She's mine," the Hound spat out furiously, "I'll do it myself."

"But the king-"

Holding her head up, Sansa turned away from the knight, ignoring him. She did not have endure his gaping with Sandor there. She was safe. She wanted to rage, to hurt him for the many times he had hurt her, to warn him that when she was the Hound's wife she would have her husband smite him if ever he dared look at her again. But Sansa was determined he would not see her anger.

"I shall do whatever His Grace commands, ser." Her voice was surprisingly calm.

"You heard her," Sandor spat in the knight's face. "Go and tell the king that I would entrust her to no one but myself."

"But-"

"I will guard her." Without waiting for a reply, Sandor gripped her by the arm and led her from the room, leaving the knight behind them.


Epilogue


The next day, in a simple ceremony before the Heart tree, Sansa Stark wed Sandor Clegane. Afterward, the king ordered her taken to Clegane Keep and kept as prisoner there, but Sandor took her north instead, and there swore fealty to her brother.

Bravely he distinguished himself in House Stark's host, and for his loyal service in defeating House Lannister, King Robb gifted him with lordship in Winterfrost Keep, a castle situated deep within The Gift.

On the stormiest of nights, the Clegane family settles around the hearth in the Great Hall and the children never fail to ask to hear the story of how Mama fell in love with Da. With great emotion, Sansa retells their romance, her eyes shining as she shares how their father was brave and strong, and that even though he was no true knight, he saved her just the same from the wicked King Joffrey.

The children always listen in rapt attention, and both their sons and daughters curl up into his lap in awe of their beloved father's noble deeds. Never does Lord Clegane scold their childish enthusiasm for the tale, and never does the Lady of the Gift elaborate further. It is a secret, a tale for them alone, that their love affair began the day that Sansa bathed the Hound.